In Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a young artist who fell in love with his own sculpture of a woman. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was touched by his devotion and blessed him by making the statue come alive.
Today, we use the phrase ‘the Pygmalion effect’ to describe placing a high expectation on others and having those expectations become a reality.
This is a psychological phenomenon that’s better known by the term ‘a self-fulfilling prophecy’. When we believe something, we think and act according to that belief, and this leads to goals being fulfilled.
A prolific real-life study gives us an example of how the Pygmalion effect can play out in real life. Researcher Rosenthal informed the teachers of a school that certain children showed promise and would achieve more. These children were picked at random and there was no objective reason for them to be more promising than the others.
The study was created to understand the effect that a teacher’s expectations would have on a child. And the amazing result was that those children who had been randomly assigned as promising showed a dramatic improvement in a short while.
These children’s teachers asked them more questions, encouraged them, and helped them more. And in turn, the randomly picked children thrived and lived up to the belief the teachers had that they were special.
We’re going to look at ways that we can apply this amazing phenomenon in our own lives and in relation to others. Positive expectations can open a world of possibilities and we should embrace this in our lives.
Avoid negative expectations
An obvious way to apply the Pygmalion effect is to avoid creating negative expectations in life and work. Remember to phrase your goals, tasks, ideas, and more in terms of possibility. Don’t spend your energy in worry or in imagining worst-case scenarios. This does not mean indulging in unrealistic expectations but merely to remember the glass is half full.
Create high expectations
The very idea behind this phenomenon that you’re approaching your goals with passion and you hope for an ideal outcome. When you’re working with a team, have high expectations of others by believing that they are doing their best, and are capable of great things.
Think of it as giving others and yourself an ‘A’ in life.
It’s important to note that you’re not trying to be perfect or having forced positivity. But it’s about believing the best about yourself, others and the situation you’re dealing with.
Even when it comes to creating a positive-expectation mindset, we can use feedback to help us. When you don’t have the habit of holding positive expectations, you can count on an accountability partner or mentor to remind you to look for the best in others.
Likewise, give feedback to your own team and peers by supporting them. Help them feel confident by focusing on their best qualities and potential rather than any limitations.
Be aware of subtle cues
Managing small cues like body language or unconscious choices of words is difficult because these actions are done without awareness.
To consciously use the Pygmalion effect in your own life, learn to create your own small physical cues. Use power poses and hold a straight and confident posture. Keep your neck erect and compel yourself to speak to people with confidence. When you act and behave a certain way, you’ll start to believe positive things of yourself.
Likewise, offer people on your team unconscious cues by using an open body language. Don’t offer them solutions but rather, guide them to finding answers on their own. These small actions show that you trust them and this will make them have faith in their own abilities.
The beliefs we hold can manifest in real-world achievements. The Pygmalion effect, in particular, focuses on seeing good qualities in yourself and in others. These expectations lead to interactions that empower others and help you achieve your goals. With the tips given here, you’ll see the beauty in others just the way Pygmalion did in his statue, and bring such potential to life.